South Africa face a spin dilemma ahead of the first Test against India, but whoever they pick should be backed for at least the first two games.
It is probably safe to say South Africa won’t win this series thanks to the efforts of a spinner. It will certainly help, of course, but the Proteas have always relied on their fast bowlers to do the job, whether that is to break a partnership or wrap up a tail.
That approach won’t change in this series, but whichever spinner the selectors go for will have an important role to play, even if it is just tying up an end and building pressure that way.
Imran Tahir, Simon Harmer and Dane Piedt are the three candidates, and whoever gets the nod should play at least the first two Tests, except if things go horribly wrong in Mohali.
Harmer is the incumbent, Tahir is making the comeback and Piedt is trying to win his spot back after losing it to injury.
Three writers at SACricketmag.com have made a case for each of the three spinners to be included in the Test XI on Thursday.
Kobus Pretorius: Dane Piedt. Players are not supposed to lose their placce due to injury, but it is unclear if that policy is still enforced in the national setup. Piedt made a bright start to his international career, taking 8-152 on debut against Zimbabwe. Granted, the opposition wasn’t great, but Piedt deserves another crack after injuring his shoulder and losing his place. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He did tour with South Africa A to India in August and took a five-wicket haul in each of the two unofficial Tests – encouraging signs that he can exploit the conditions and put India under pressure.
Mark Salter: Simon Harmer. He was picked on merit against the West Indians at the beginning of 2015, and acquitted himself with honour, taking seven wickets in the match for 153 in 50 overs. He took 3-105 in 35 overs in the truncated first Test against Bangladesh. But more importantly, he has never been taken for more than 3.4 an over. He has an economy rate of 3.09. So what has changed? Not too much can be read into the ‘warm-up’ match, where he was given an ‘extended’ run of 11 overs. As the incumbent spinner, he should be given a chance to prove himself.
Alasdair Fraser: Imran Tahir. Tahir must be favourite to start the first Test against India when you consider his recall to the Test squad and his strike-bowler value to the Proteas’ ODI team. Unlike Simon Harmer, Tahir has enough variations in his arsenal to run through the Indian batting lineup, on say, the final day of a Test. I believe his familiarity with subcontinent pitches and experience should give him the inside lane over Harmer and Piedt.